Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for June 26th, 2009

Thank God for the ACLU

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Daphne Eviatar of the Washington Independent:

The American Civil Liberties Union yesterday, along with Alkarama for Human Rights, asked two U.N. special rapporteurs to investigate the “extraordinary rendition,” detention and torture of Abou Elkassim Britel, an Italian citizen and one of the victims suing Jeppesen Dataplan, the subsidiary of Boeing the allegedly helped the CIA carry out the Bush administration’s torture outsourcing program.

The last time I wrote about the case of Mohamed v. Jeppesen, the Obama Justice Department was asking the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to re-hear the case, after a three-judge panel of that court refused to dismiss the victims’ claims on the grounds that the lawsuit would allegedly reveal sensitive “state secrets.” (For an excellent piece about the “state secrets” privilege and its dubious origins, listen here to “The Secret Life of Secrets” from last Sunday’s NPR program, This American Life.)

Because the lawsuit has so far been stalled and there’s no other apparent recourse with the U.S. government, the ACLU, which represents the plaintiffs in the Jeppesen case, has asked the U.N. human rights experts to investigate the circumstances surrounding Britel’s arrest, detention and interrogation in Pakistan and his secret transfer to Morocco; his imprisonment there without charge or trial; and his abusive interrogation there.

According to the ACLU, “Britel is one of the few victims of the United States’ “extraordinary rendition” program whose identities are known, and the only European citizen, to our knowledge, still detained. To this day, Britel remains incarcerated in a Moroccan prison.”

Nahal Zamani of the ACLU’s Human Rights Program recently spoke with Britel’s wife, Italian citizen Khadija Anna Lucia Pighizzini, and has posted an excerpt and translation of their conversation here.

It ends with this statement of hope from Pighizzini, which is extraordinary given that her husband has been imprisoned, tortured and abused since 2002, all without any logical explanation:

As for me, I am always tired, and always waiting. It’s been over seven long years since Kassim disappeared. These years have been so painful, but I know that the injustice that I’ve gone through will soon be over. I haven’t given way to hate; nor has Kassim. Instead, we’re waiting for his liberation. We want to live our lives, and to reclaim our rights to live in dignity as citizens and human beings. We look towards to the future; when truth will be heard, when our rights will be restored and when justice will finally be served.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 June 2009 at 3:46 pm

Bruce Schneier on airport security

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Good article by Schneier:

It’s been months since the Transportation Security Administration has had a permanent director. If, during the job interview (no, I didn’t get one), President Obama asked me how I’d fix airport security in one sentence, I would reply: "Get rid of the photo ID check, and return passenger screening to pre-9/11 levels."

Okay, that’s a joke. While showing ID, taking your shoes off and throwing away your water bottles isn’t making us much safer, I don’t expect the Obama administration to roll back those security measures anytime soon. Airport security is more about CYA than anything else: defending against what the terrorists did last time.

But the administration can’t risk appearing as if it facilitated a terrorist attack, no matter how remote the possibility, so those annoyances are probably here to stay.

This would be my real answer: "Establish accountability and transparency for airport screening." And if I had another sentence: "Airports are one of the places where Americans, and visitors to America, are most likely to interact with a law enforcement officer – and yet no one knows what rights travelers have or how to exercise those rights."

Obama has repeatedly talked about increasing openness and transparency in government, and it’s time to bring transparency to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

Let’s start with the no-fly and watch lists. Right now, everything about them is secret: You can’t find out if you’re on one, or who put you there and why, and you can’t clear your name if you’re innocent. This Kafkaesque scenario is so un-American it’s embarrassing. Obama should make the no-fly list subject to judicial review.

Then, move on to the checkpoints themselves: …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 June 2009 at 3:21 pm

Big Brother may decide to imprison you without cause

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The Obama Administration have drafted an executive order that allows it to imprison indefinitely anyone it deems a terrorist suspect: that is, if the Administration doesn’t like the cut of your jib, you can be locked up for life without charges, without due process, and with no chance of appeal. This sounds an awful lot like the Soviet Union under Stalin, doesn’t it? I don’t see how this can possibly be constitutional, but with the new American cowardice (quivering like jelly at the very word "terrorist"), it will probably become part of the new dystopia.

Dafna Linzer and Peter Finn in ProPublica:

The Obama administration, fearing a battle with Congress that could stall plans to close Guantanamo, has drafted an executive order that would reassert presidential authority to incarcerate suspected terrorists indefinitely [my emphasis – LG], according to three senior government officials with knowledge of White House deliberations.

Such an order would embrace claims by former President George W. Bush that certain people can be detained without trial for long periods under the laws of war. Obama advisers are concerned that bypassing Congress could place the president on weaker footing before the courts and anger key supporters, the officials said.

After months of internal debate over how to close the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, White House officials are growing increasingly worried that reaching quick agreement with Congress on a new detention system may prove impossible. Several officials said there is concern in the White House that the administration may not be able to close the facility by the president’s January 2010 deadline.

White House spokesman Ben LaBolt did not directly respond to questions about an executive order but said the administration would address the cases of Guantanamo detainees in a manner "consistent with the national security interests of the United States and the interests of justice."

One administration official suggested the White House was already trying to build support for an executive order.

"Civil liberties groups have encouraged the administration, that if a prolonged detention system were to be sought, to do it through executive order," the official said. Such an order can be rescinded and would not block later efforts to write legislation, but civil liberties groups generally oppose long-term detention, arguing that detainees should either be prosecuted or released.

The Justice Department has declined comment on the prospects for a long-term detention system while internal reviews of Guantanamo detainees are underway. The reviews are expected to be completed by July 21.

In a May speech [1], President Obama broached the need for a system of long-term detention and suggested that it would include congressional and judicial oversight. "We must recognize that these detention policies cannot be unbounded. They can’t be based simply on what I or the Executive Branch decide alone," the president said.

Some of Obama’s top legal advisers, along with a handful of influential Republican and Democratic lawmakers, have pushed for the creation of a "national security court" to supervise the incarceration of detainees deemed too dangerous to release but who cannot be charged or tried.

But the three senior government officials said the White House has turned away from that option, at least for now, because legislation establishing a special court would be both difficult to pass and likely to fracture Obama’s own party. These officials, as well as others interviewed for this story, spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about internal deliberations…

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 June 2009 at 3:19 pm

Congress determined to give themselves more money

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Mike Lillis of the Washington Independent:

Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.) is taking up a cause that’s sure to make him unpopular among colleagues: He’s trying to force a vote on legislation to end the automatic pay raises enjoyed by congressional lawmakers since 1989.

The Senate earlier this year passed a bill to do just that, but House Democratic leaders are sitting on it, hoping it goes away. Today, Massa announced the intention to circulate a discharge petition that would force a floor vote if at least half the House membership signs on.

As The Hill points out, discharge petitions are usually circulated by members of the minority party who want to force a vote on an issue unpalatable to the majority. It’s an embarrassment tactic, and for that reason members of the majority party don’t usually drop them on their own leaders.

In the midst of recession, lawmakers have already voted to forgo their pay raises in 2010, but the automatic raise mechanism will kick in once more in 2011 — a condition the Senate bill would prevent.

At least one lawmaker is cheering Massa’s move. Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), the long-time sponsor of the Senate pay-raise bill, issued a statement this afternoon saying that it’s “inexcusable” for Congress to get raises while so many others across the country have lost their jobs.

“If members of Congress believe that they deserve a raise,” Feingold said, “they should be willing to vote on it in the open.”

Unfortunately for the Wisconsin senator, not many of his colleagues agree.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 June 2009 at 3:10 pm

Posted in Congress, Daily life

Refusal to release prisoners on court order: unconstitutional

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Daphne Eviatar has a story on the bad side of Obama:

As expected, yesterday President Obama signed a supplemental appropriations bill that prohibits the release of Guantanamo detainees into the United States, and restricts the president’s ability to release them to other countries without Congressional approval.

The little-noticed provision raises constitutional questions about who has the power to control the release of detainees — the president, Congress or the courts?

Lawyers representing Guantanamo detainees are already calling the law an unconstitutional suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, as SCOTUSblog notes today. Sabin Willett, the lead lawyer representing the 13 Uighurs who have appealed to the Supreme Court to review their case, today wrote to the court urging it to review the decision of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., in Kiyemba v. Obama, which prohibits the federal courts from ordering any detainees released into the United States. As a result, while according to American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Jonathon Hafetz, Guantanamo detainees have so far won about 26 of 31 habeas corpus cases decided by federal courts so far, most remain imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay. Lawyers, including Willett, have argued that the result is effectively to deny them the right to habeas corpus that the Supreme Court ruled they have in Boumediene v. Bush.

In his letter today, Willett urged the Supreme Court to take up the case, saying that “a failure either to reverse or affirm the decision below will leave unsettled a question that goes to the heart of habeas jurisdiction. …”

The court is expected to decide today whether or not to grant certiorari and hear the appeal in the Kiyemba case.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 June 2009 at 3:08 pm

US cowardice makes placing Guantánamo prisoners difficult

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Daphne Eviatar of the Washington Independent:

Testifying recently before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Attorney General Eric Holder was asked what the Justice Department plans to do with Guantanamo Bay detainees who can’t be sent home, if no other country will take them.

Given that President Obama just signed a law sent to him by Congress that prohibits the release of any detainees into the United States, the answer to that question has just become a lot more urgent.

“We’re going to work with our allies, with our friends, to try to place these people,” said Holder, noting that in recent weeks nine Guantanamo prisoners were placed in other countries. “Those efforts will continue.”

Sen, Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) followed up by asking what should be done about those the United States government cannot place overseas.

Holder skirted that one. “I’m not sure that we won’t be able to … by sharing information about who these people are, we can come up with a way that will assure them they will not pose a danger to our allies or a danger to us,” he said, adding “I think we’ll be successful in assuring them.”

If the Supreme Court decides not to take up the petition of the 13 remaining Uighurs at Guantanamo Bay at issue in the case of Kiyemba v. Obama, which I wrote about previously, then the courts won’t have any authority to release them either. And that’s sure to increasingly frustrate judges like Richard Leon, who earlier this week was clearly disgusted with the government’s argument (see Christy Hardin Smith’s great post on that at Firedoglake) that it could continue to detain Abdulrahim Abdul Razak Al Ginco (who goes by “Janko”) — a man who’d been brutally tortured by al-Qaeda and imprisoned by the Taliban, only to be re-incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay. The government’s argument for Janko’s continued detention “defies common sense,” wrote Judge Leon, an appointee of President George W. Bush, with evident exasperation.

Judge Leon’s is only the latest in a string of habeas cases — 26 out of 31 so far, according to American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Jonathan Hafetz — to find that the government’s grounds for indefinite detention of what the Bush administration called “enemy combatants” simply don’t hold up.

In May, Judge Gladys Kessler refused to condone the ongoing imprisonment of Alla Ali Bin Ali Ahmed, captured as a teenager, based on what she called “guilt by association.”

Like the Uighurs, these are men (some seized as teenagers) who’ve now been cleared for release, yet after seven years, still remain imprisoned at the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay. As the law currently stands, neither the federal courts nor the president himself — given the bill he just signed into law — can remedy the situation, unless some other country offers to take them.

The Supreme Court was expected to decide yesterday whether to hear their case, but so far no word.

Maybe today or next week.

Update: Andy Worthington has more detail on Judge Leon’s decision and the disturbing case of Abdul Rahim Janko at Huffington Post.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 June 2009 at 3:05 pm

Plans for preventive imprisonment

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Lock up people who haven’t done anything bad to prevent them from doing something bad: a sure-fire winner?

Daphne Eviatar of the Washington Independent:

NPR’s report this morning that the Brookings Institution’s Benjamin Wittes has proposed what’s expected to be a highly influential plan for “preventive detention” — which could lock up “dangerous” terror suspects potentially forever without charge or trial — gives even more urgency to the question that Spencer raised here more than a month ago.

Will the administration be more swayed by an author of books about fighting terrorism than by its own deputy attorney general at the Office of Legal Counsel, Marty Lederman? The choice is stark, and if NPR’s Ari Shapiro is correct that Wittes is planning to reveal proposed legislation on the matter today, and that he has the ear of the Obama administration, then it may ultimately come down to whose view the administration credits more.

Wittes has no formal legal training and has proposed a potentially unconstitutional system of indefinite detention of terror suspects without trial; Lederman is an esteemed constitutional law professor at Georgetown University with eight years of prior experience advising the executive branch from the Justice Department — and he has previously expressed serious concerns about preventive detention.

As Spencer pointed out, before his appointment to the Office of Legal Counsel in the Obama administration, Lederman, in an online colloquy with Wittes, specifically denounced the idea of preventive detention based on the president’s determination of who is dangerous.

“’Dangerousness,’ as such — particularly dangerousness as evidenced primarily by one’s ‘deeply held beliefs’ — is not a constitutionally valid ground, standing alone, to indefinitely incarcerate persons without the protections of a criminal trial,” he wrote in Opinio Juris. “Indeed, even if the dangerousness is demonstrated by past criminal conduct, that is not a permissible ground for noncriminal detention.” He continued that the Supreme Court has repeatedly held that deterrence of dangerous people “is a function ‘properly … of criminal law, not civil commitment.’”

Wittes may have a very “pragmatic approach to fighting terrorism,” as NPR describes it. (He’s also in the past proposed a system of “national security courts” that would suspend some of the usual criminal justice procedures — which sounds a lot like the new Obama military commissions proposal.) But it’s worth recalling that we’re in this situation to begin with because the Bush administration, dominated by non-lawyers, had insufficient respect for constitutional parameters.

This situation may be partly due to the lack of leadership in the OLC: Republicans have stalled the confirmation of Dawn Johnsen, President Obama’s nominee to head the office, for months now. That may be giving outsiders more say in the administration’s plans than they would ordinarily have.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 June 2009 at 3:02 pm

Conyers’ Wife Pleads Guilty to Federal Bribery Charges

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From the Congressional Quarterly:

The wife of House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. (D-MI) pleaded guilty Friday to a federal charge of conspiring to commit bribery.

Monica Conyers, the president pro tem of the Detroit City Council, accepted bribes in 2007 in exchange for voting in favor of a wastewater treatment contract between the city and Synagro Technologies Inc.

As Judiciary chairman, John Conyers is tasked with oversight of the Justice Department, which prosecuted his wife. A spokesman for Conyers, D-Mich., would not comment on whether he would recuse himself from anything related to the department.

“This has been a trying time for the Conyers family and, with hope and prayer, they will make it through this as a family,” the spokesman said. “Public officials must expect to be held to the highest ethical and legal standards. With this in mind, Mr. Conyers wants to work towards helping his family and city recover from this serious matter.”

Monica Conyers faces up to five years in prison, up to three years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $200,000.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 June 2009 at 3:00 pm

Salsa Lucía

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From The Week, and named after Lucía Soria, an Argentine chef. This was served with roast salt-crust chicken (chicken with herbs in cavity buried in damp salt and roasted in a hot oven—the crust is then broken, the skin discarded, and the meat (even the breast) is moist).

1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, minced
1 Tbsp capers, rinsed, dried, and minced
2 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 red bell pepper, minced
1 green bell pepper, minced
1 small red onion, minced
1/2 tsp grated orange zest
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine the above in a medium bowl, using salt and pepper to taste.

Then whisk in 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil in a slow, stead stream.

Makes about 2 cups.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 June 2009 at 2:59 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

Another Kindle thought

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At least one more: I’ve mentioned that I like to read several books at a time. I’m now reading three (or four—the fourth I dip into occasionally) on the Kindle DX, and switching from one to another is a treat—no more finding a bookmark, putting aside the current book, picking up another book, finding my place, etc. Just a few quick clicks and I’m into the other book.

I’m liking it more and more

Written by LeisureGuy

26 June 2009 at 2:43 pm

"It’s good for you"

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A story that went around during the early days of hearings on the danger of smoking tobacco was the joke that the tobacco companies would try to regain lost ground by initiating a campaign to sell people on the idea that cancer’s good for you. Apparently it’s less of a joke than I thought. From Culinate:

So the plastics industry, instead of embracing alternatives to bisphenol A for its products, has apparently decided to damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.

As the nonprofit Environmental Working Group recently reported, plastics manufacturers recently got together and decided that the key to keeping BPA on the market was to convince women (they do the shopping anyway, right?) that BPA was safe:

Their “holy grail” spokesperson would be a “pregnant young mother who would be willing to speak around the country about the benefits of BPA.”

As the EWG noted, “But who? What young mother will agree to tout a product that dozens of scientific studies have shown causes permanent damage to an embryo?”

Written by LeisureGuy

26 June 2009 at 10:07 am

More stalling on torture report

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This is getting to be very bad. Spencer Ackerman:

It was supposed to be a magical day: the day when, in response to an agreement reached in a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Obama administration will declassify an important document in the history of its predecessor’s apparatus of torture. I refer to the 2004 inquest undertaken by ex-CIA Inspector General John Helgerson into the CIA’s interrogations and detentions programs. The Bush administration released an almost-totally-redacted version in May 2008, and despite the Obama administration’s pledge to disclose a more-detailed version of the document, it punted the disclosure a week ago Friday to today. “We can only hope that this delay is a sign that the forces of transparency within the Obama administration are winning over the forces of secrecy and that the report will ultimately be released with minimal redactions,” ACLU attorney Amrit Singh said last week. “The CIA should not be permitted to use national security as a pretext for suppressing evidence of its own unlawful conduct.”

Yeah, if only. The Obama administration won’t release the document today. According to the ACLU, it’s asked for a three-day reprieve. ACLU’s consented. Game Day is now supposed to be July 1.

Helgerson’s 2004 report is a crucial one. As disclosed through references in the footnotes of the 2005 Office of Legal Counsel memos, it documents how the agency took the OLC’s legal imprimatur for certain abusive interrogation techniques and expanded those techniques in practice to, among other things, waterboard Khalid Sheikh Mohammed 183 times, denying him sleep for a week by contorting his body into unnatural positions, and restrict his diet to between 1000 and 1500 calories a day. Marcy Wheeler has an excellent couple of posts about what torture questions the report should answer. And Helgerson, who recently retired from CIA, suffered for his work, tussling with former Director Michael Hayden, who attempted to limit his independence.

Maybe we’ll see the answers to those torture questions early next week, but it’s sure not looking good. I’ll have the government’s letter seeking the reprieve shortly.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 June 2009 at 10:02 am

The best milkshake recipe?

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Read it. Interesting that he uses a blender and not a milkshake mixer. The tips are great and he gives two recipes:

  • Lemon Buttermilk Shake
  • Vanilla Honey Sesame Milkshake
  • Written by LeisureGuy

    26 June 2009 at 9:56 am

    Posted in Daily life, Drinks, Food, Recipes

    8k and counting

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    I just won a game against an 8-kyu player on Kiseido Go Server. I’m surprised. Yesterday I won a game against a 9-kyu player, so my rank went up to 8-kyu, but I don’t think I’m that good. Still, using the growth mindset, I am playing regularly now to see what I can learn, and this morning the victory mentioned. I’m chuffed.

    Written by LeisureGuy

    26 June 2009 at 9:51 am

    Posted in Daily life, Games, Go

    What will digital TV bring?

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    Or, more accurately, what will the freed-up spectrum allow? Mark Stencel of Congressional Quarterly speculates:

    M y mother-in-law’s kitchen television is as indestructible as a cockroach. Having assumed that the nationwide conversion to digital TV would mark the end of the ancient black-and-white’s long life, she was delighted to turn it on after the June 12 switch-over date and find that one analog channel was still on the air. A Tuscaloosa station, owned and operated by the University of Alabama, was among the low-power local broadcasters that Congress exempted from the conversion, so the dependable little relic would avoid the landfill for a little longer.

    By the time most analog transmissions went off the air the week before last, most people who owned TVs as old as my wife’s mom had either purchased new digital converter boxes for their sets or signed up for cable, fiber or satellite service, which were unaffected by the digital conversion. Sets of more recent vintage typically came equipped to turn digital signals into high-resolution images of dancing celebrities and all the gory evidence that makes “CSI Wherever” so popular.

    The needs of real-world police investigators were among the selling points for this switch. Most of the airwaves the digital transition freed up were auctioned for commercial use last year, generating nearly $20 billion for the Treasury. But the Federal Communications Commission separately put up for bid — and set aside for public safety uses — a sliver of the broadcast spectrum in the 700 megahertz band. The plan was to create a public-private partnership to combine this 10 megahertz, from a segment of the spectrum called the D Block, with a nearby 10 megahertz that was previously put aside to help create a super-fast, interoperable national network for emergency communications.

    This shared wireless broadband network would do more than address longstanding problems with reducing interference and making sure disparate systems could be linked in a crisis. Firefighters and police officers could be wired up like the early astronauts, sending real-time feeds on their vital signs and locations to their supervisors. These first-responders could quickly gain access to the blueprints of a building on fire, say, or the police intelligence reports on a hostage-taker. An emergency room doctor could begin monitoring an inbound patient’s vital signs before the ambulance even arrived. And images captured by digital cameras mounted in police cars or fire trucks could be beamed instantly to dispatchers, rather than stored for retrieval on hard drives — or even, as the chief technologist for a major Midwestern municipality sheepishly told me, on a VHS recorder in the trunk.

    While ideas for using faster networks are plentiful, safety officials know better than most that high-speed chases are unpredictable. In this case, their plans for a national network took an unexpected turn early last year, when questions about price, penalties and unclear requirements appeared to scare off any qualifying bids for the D Block…

    Continue reading.

    Written by LeisureGuy

    26 June 2009 at 9:06 am

    Square-foot gardening

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    Excellent post at Squawkfox on square-foot gardening, including lots of photos. The reasons offered for this way of gardening:

    1. No heavy digging. Raised garden beds don’t require you to dig deep into the ground. An advantage if you’re not into, well, digging.

    2. Soil quality is irrelevant. If you don’t have fabulous fertile soil then worry not. Just use compost or buy a few bags of soil to fill your raised beds. Perfect soil every time. You can also customize the soil in each box for different plant types.

    3. Uses less water. Because the garden is contained you end up using far less water compared to conventional gardening. You also save on your water bill since a contained garden prevents soil from getting spread out and compacted.

    4. Easier to care for and protect. Raised garden beds can be placed close to your home and thus under your watchful eye and easier to care for. This depends though, if you have deer grazing in your area then protecting your bounty is still a bit of a job.

    5. Easier to manage. It’s easier to reach for and sit beside a raised garden bed than a conventional in-ground garden. Raised beds grow closer to our sitting height and don’t require lots of bending over to get down and dirty. Reaching to weed, water, or harvest is unnecessary since the box frames are not wider than 4 feet.

    6. Less weeding? Some square foot gardeners claim there are less weeds with raised beds. I’ve found this claim to be valid since weeds can’t grow inwards from outside the box frame. Also, because the soil is raised and lighter (not compacted), it’s easier and quicker to weed out the unwanted. Lastly, because plants are closer together in square foot beds they can easily crowd out the weeds.

    7. Less likely to rot or succumb to bugs. Raised beds are elevated so excess water can easily drain away from the plant and prevent rotting. Bugs, slugs, and critters will have a harder time munching on your veggies too since the garden is raised on higher ground.

    8. Supports and trellises made easy. It’s easy to attach vine supports or a trellis to a raised bed box. Your tomatoes, peas, beans, and other taller plants will love you.

    9. Go for Organic Gardening. If you’re into knowing the full history of your food and desire organic produce, then growing your own vegetable garden is a sure fire way to get into organic gardening.

    10. Frugal fun! Teaching your kids to cultivate food or just growing the garden for yourself is inexpensive fun. Besides, there are not many hobbies that allow you to enjoy the fruits of your labor when the season is over. Freezing the extras for winter meals can cut grocery expenses and taste yummy in the colder months too.

    Read the whole article—invaluable if you’re thinking of growing some of your own vegetables (e.g., pepper plants).

    Written by LeisureGuy

    26 June 2009 at 9:01 am

    Posted in Daily life, Food

    Tagged with

    Strange neocon thinking examined

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    This column by Glenn Greenwald analyzes how a neocon writer consistently misses (or misstates) the facts:

    Last night, I noted the sudden and obviously hypocritical concern about detainee abuse emerging from The Weekly Standard‘s Michael Goldfarb now that the transfer of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit by the Palestinians to Egypt appears imminent and it’s time to exploit his detention.  In service of that same mission, Goldfarb also tries to attribute this deal for Shalit’s release to the heroism of Benjamin Netanyahu, excitedly claiming that, if it happens, it will cause the Israeli Prime Minister’s "approval numbers [to] skyrocket, further undermining Obama’s leverage over him" (i.e., Israel will be able to continue to expand settlements on land that isn’t theirs).

    But as Omooex points out in comments, the Haaretz article which Goldfarb himself cited makes clear that it was not Netanyahu, but numerous other parties — Jimmy Carter, Egypt, Syria and the Obama administration — who engineered the agreement to transfer Shalit from Gaza to Egypt (followed eventually by his release to Israel, pending the release by Israel of Palestinian prisoners):

    The move is part of a new United States initiative that includes Egyptian and Syrian pressure on Hamas . . . The idea to transfer Shalit to Egypt in exchange for the release of Palestinian women, teens, cabinet ministers and parliamentarians being held in Israeli prisons was raised about a year ago during a visit by former U.S. president Jimmy Carter to Damascus, Jerusalem and Gaza. . . . Carter raised it again on his visit earlier this month, during which he met Noam Shalit, Gilad’s father. . . . The European source said Shalit’s transfer to Egypt was the first stage of the Egyptian-brokered agreement hammered out between Fatah, Hamas and other Palestinian factions, in coordination with the U.S. and with Syria’s support.

    In other words, the deal for Shalit’s release was secured by some of the neocon’s most despised enemies (Jimmy Carter and Syria), with the help of a President they insist hates Israel (Barack Obama), relying on tactics they have long scorned (diplomacy, negotiating with Terrorists, including Hamas).  Of course, Jimmy Carter — who neocons endlessly smear as being Israel-hating and even anti-Semitic — did more to advance the interests of Israeli security than every neoconservative keyboard-tough-guy combined (indeed, more than virtually any single individual on the planet) when he engineered the 1979 Camp David peace accord between Israel and Egypt, which — even 30 years later — continues to pay dividends for Israel in the form of this apparent agreement for Shalit’s release.  Identically, the Shalit deal is possible only because, as Haaretz notes, Hamas knows that there is now an American administration willing to negotiate with hostile parties, rather than trying to feel "tough" by ignoring and/or threatening them:

    Hamas, which controls Gaza, has increasingly tried to reach out to the Obama administration in recent weeks.

    This is but one of the numerous inanities of neoconservatives:  as destructive for the U.S. as their obsession with Israel and mindless belligerence are, those fixations also do nothing for Israel but jeopardize it further.  Years of neocon rule and moronic chest-beating in Washington did nothing to help Shalit.  But a deal is struck for his release — long a top priority of Israelis — only months into a new administration committed to engagement with Syria and other ostensible Enemies, as well as an emphatic rejection of neoconservative ideology at least when it comes to dealing with some Muslim states.  But even those clear and obvious facts — whereby this apparent success is possible only with them out of power, their ideology repudiated and their Enemies engaged — won’t stop them from claiming that this somehow vindicates their tawdry mindset.

    [Along those same lines, Omooex also highlights what will be an overlooked part of the story:  namely, that Israel is imprisoning "Palestinian women, teens, cabinet ministers and parliamentarians" (including, until his release this week, "Palestinian Legislative Council Speaker Sheikh Aziz Dweik after three years in prison" who is "a leader of Hamas in the West Bank [and] espouses a moderate line in the organization").  If this Shalit deal ends up being consummated (and that still remains to be seen), the American media narrative will undoubtedly dramatize the detention of Shalit, an actual Israel solider, even while Israel imprisons scores of "Palestinian women, teens, cabinet ministers and parliamentarians."]

    Notably, Goldfarb seems to think that Obama’s leverage over Israel is dependent upon …

    Continue reading.

    Written by LeisureGuy

    26 June 2009 at 8:46 am

    The little brushes

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    Here are the little guys, flanked by a couple of larger brushes for scale. From left to right: Simpsons Emperor 3 Super, Emperor 1 Super, Classic, Harvard 1 Best, yesterday’s Omega, and my old standby, the Rooney Style 2 Finest. According to hyperwarp in a comment on yesterday’s shave, he gets 4-5 passes worth of lather from his Simpsons Wee Scot.


    And here is today’s shave. The Harvard 1 Best generated a lot of lather from Floris London JF shaving soap—certainly ample for 4 passes and maybe 5, though I did only three. The 1940’s Milord (i.e., gold-plated Super Speed) with a previously used Astra Keramik blade did a very nice shave indeed: easy and efficient, leaving my skin exceptionally smooth, with not a nick. The Floris JF aftershave finished me up in fine style.

    Written by LeisureGuy

    26 June 2009 at 8:35 am

    Posted in Shaving

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